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B. POLEVOI
lying helplessly in her arms. She tried to keep her eyes
away from it, but when, through the steam, they in-
voluntarily lighted upon Alexei's leg, or arm, a gleam of
horror flashed in them. She began to imagine that this
airman was not a stranger who had come into their home,
goodness knows how, but her own Misha; that it was not
this unexpected guest, but her husband, with whom she
had lived only one spring, a broad-shouldered fellow with
big, bright freckles on his face, with eyebrows so fair
that he seemed to have none, with enormous, powerful
hands, that flic fascist monsters had reduced to this state.
That it was her Misha's seemingly lifeless body that she
was holding in her arms. And horror overcame her, her
head swam, and only by biting her lips could she keep
herself from falling into a swoon.
'. /'.Later, Alexei lay on the thin, striped mattress, in
a long, heavily-patched but clean and soft shirt that
belonged to Grandad Mikhail, conscious of a feeling of
freshness and vigour in his whole body. After the bath,
when the steam had evaporated through the hole in the
ceiling over the hearth, Varya gave him some hot, smoky
bilberry tea. He sipped it with tiny pieces of the two
lumps of sugar which the boys had brought him and
which Varya had broken up and handed to him on a
strip of white birch bark. Then he fell asleep—the first
sound, dreamless sleep since the catastrophe overcame him.
He was awakened by loud conversation. It was almost
dark in the dugout, the rushlight barely smouldered.
Amidst this smoky gloom he heard the cracked, high-
pitched voice of Grandad Mikhail:
"Just like a woman! Where are your brains? The man's
not had so much as a millet seed in his mouth for eleven
days, and you go and boil them hard!... Why, these
hard-boiled eggs will kill him!" Then his voice assumed
a pleading tone: "It's not eggs he needs now. D'you know
what'd be good for him, Vasilisa? Some nice chicken
broth! ^ That's what! It would put new life into him.
Now, if you were to bring us your Partisanka ... eh?"
But the grating voice of a frightened old woman inter-
rupted him:
"I won't! I won't and won't! It's no use asking, you old
ocvil! Don't dare say any more about it! Give my Parti-